Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hutchinson Island "Reserve" has been a gold mine.

I was in Virginia after Thanksgiving when I saw that Steve Calver and Russ Wigh were posting about all the birds they were seeing on Hutchinson Island. The Reserve is a section of the island that was intended to be a high-end housing development that floundered with the real estate slowdown. Now there are lots of weedy fields and ditches that are great for sparrows, Killdeer, snipe, meadowlarks, shrikes, and more. Last winter, the area even had 2 Western Kingbirds.

When I got back, I stopped by the Reserve on Tuesday, Dec. 3rd. Savannah Sparrows were abundant, as were Swamp, Song and Chipping Sparrows.

Savannah Sparrow
I was thrilled to find several Vesper Sparrows. I got a couple of distant photos that day and better looks and photos on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013.
Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

Steve Calver showed up and spotted a Clay-colored Sparrow. I was able to relocate and get a couple of distant photos.

Clay-colored Sparrow

 Ogeechee Audubon had a field trip to Hutchinson Island on Dec. 8th. In spite of the cool, foggy, overcast weather, 15 people showed up. The best bird of the day was a Dickcissel - either female or young male. It perched low in a bush and most folks got good looks in the scope. The bird was relocated later that afternoon by several other birders.


Other fun sightings included an Osprey flying by with a large fish, more than a dozen Wilson's Snipe that flushed out of the wet fields, and a Loggerhead Shrike.

Osprey carries a big fish.

Loggerhead Shrike
Other birds seen in the area by others included Field Sparrow, Painted Bunting (green birds), Winter Wren and Yellow-breasted Chat.(in brush pile at entrance to Race Track)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Yet another windy day on Tybee Island

Well, once again I made the trek out to the point on Tybee North Beach with my friend Russ Wigh. Russ was in search of a Purple Sandpiper. The birds were all huddled up in tight groups facing into the 20 mph northeast wind.

At first, we saw a group of Ruddy Turnstones, Dunlins and Sanderlings, but no Purple Sandpiper.
We inspected American Oystercatchers for bands (found Yellow N4, Yellow W4 & Black UO).

Just as we decided to stop fighting the wind and head back, I glanced at a group of small shorebirds that had been startled out of their huddle. Their it was - a lone Purple Sandpiper!
Ruddy Turnstone & Purple Sandpiper

How many species do you see?

By the jetties, we found nothing but Double-crested Cormorants, Brown Pelicans and the usual gulls.

Russ and I went on to Ft. Pulaski where I suggested we check the picnic area for Brown Creeper. I played the call and we heard a high-pitched response. Soon Russ spotted the creeper doing its thing on a pine tree above us. Later I found that there were 2 Brown Creepers in the neighborhood.

Brown Creeper well camouflaged

Creeping upside down
Other treats at Fort Pulaski: a Loggerhead Shrike and a flock of Eastern Meadowlarks. Not bad for a blustery day!
Loggerhead Shrike

Eastern Meadowlark

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blustery Days on Tybee

Had to get out on the beach the last two mornings to take advantage of extra high tides. Northeast winds were blowing 15-20 mph making for some cold, blustery conditions.

Blustery day on the North End of Tybee
Yesterday's highlight was my first of the season Purple Sandpiper. This was early for me to find one on Tybee as they generally show up about the third week of November. I did not see the bird again this morning.

First of the season Purple Sandpiper trying to hide from wind.

There was a flock of about 60 American Oystercatchers with some banded birds. My regular Yellow N4 was there, as was Black UO. I saw returnees Orange W2 and Yellow W4 for the first time this fall.
Orange W2 was banded at Hereford Inlet NJ 4/25/08.

This morning, before I even got to the beach I was thrilled to see a large flock of black scoters fly by coming from the direction of Lazaretto Creek and heading around the north end of Tybee. During the 2 hours I was there, several thousand scoters flew by. All the flocks I saw were black scoters, not lesser scaup.

Large flock of Black Scoters

Easy to pick out the males and females in this photo.
Yesterday I found three Eastern Meadowlarks in the grass by the small pond just off the beach. Today was even better. There was a pair of common ground doves hanging out in the grass near the gazebo.
I rarely see these birds in Chatham County.

Common Ground Dove Pair
Common Ground Dove fluffed shows rust in the wing.

 Later, when I stopped at the Community Center to vote, a male Northern Harrier soared over Jaycee Park. It was a great blustery day on Tybee Island!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Clay-colored Sparrow at Lake Mayer, Savannah

I stopped by Lake Mayer on Saturday morning, Oct. 5 in hopes of relocating the Clay-colored Sparrow found yesterday by Larry Carlile. I went onto the middle island and down to the sailboat dock and walked right (east) along the bank where there were a couple of large willows and a brushy edge along the lake.

Clay-colored Sparrow

After I had been pishing along the edge, a small bird flew out of the grass and into one of the small trees in the grassy area. Bingo! The Clay-colored Sparrow. It posed in the open for a bit, before flying to the weedy edge and again posing. This was by far my best look at this species and a first for me in Chatham County.
Clay-colored Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
As I was watching the sparrow, a Palm Warbler flew into the tree as if to say "Look at me!"

Palm Warbler
 Then, a Loggerhead Shrike (not the leucistic one) was perched atop another small tree both calling and singing. "What are you going on about?" I wanted to ask it. "It's not even breeding season."
Loggerhead Shrike

Another fun sighting was an Anhinga sitting in the top of a feathery-foliaged tree.
Amazing what you can find in 35 minutes at Lake Mayer on a Saturday morning in October.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Back to the Beach

Marshall Weber and I went to the North Beach on Tybee twice yesterday - once on the outgoing tide in the morning and then again just before the 6 pm high tide. We saw the usual suspects - Royal and Sandwich Terns, Laughing, Herring, Ring-billed, Lesser Black-backed, and Great Black-backed Gulls, as well as Black Skimmers. Also present were several Caspian Terns and more than a dozen Common Terns. One treat was a handsome Yellowlegs. My first thought was Lesser and we heard it call "tu-tu" – two short notes. However, studying the size compared to the Laughing Gulls and the length of the bill, I am questioning my initial ID and wondering if it might not be Greater Yellowlegs.

Thanks Nathan Farnau for the help. The Yellowlegs is a Greater Yellowlegs.
Greater Yellowlegs
Greater Yellowlegs - bill is long and two-toned, slightly upcurved.

Greater Yellowlegs raises foot.

We also had a Willet feeding in the surf nearby.

In the evening, we studied Forster's and Common Terns. When the Forster's Tern had molted to show the black eye patch, it was easy. There was one bird that was tending in that direction that I thought was also a Forster's.

Forster's Tern (left) and Sandwich Tern (right)

Forster's Tern? in foreground with Common Tern in background - note lighter primaries

Two Common Terns (left), Forster's Tern (right) and Royal Terns

Our final study of the day was a small sandpiper. Noting the dark legs, straight beak, dusky breast and
dark cheek and cap, we decided on Semipalmated Sandpiper.

Semipalmated Sandpiper & Sanderling

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper (note dusky breast) and Sanderlings

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Summer En-"tern"-tainment!

In mid to late August, the north beach of Tybee Island is a raucous place. Hundreds of Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns & Laughing Gulls are lounging about. This season's crop of juveniles are begging loudly and the parents are under the gun to bring in the fish. I had a great time watching the terns dive for fish, feed them to the kids, have food fights, and high-speed aerial chases.

There were a few Common Terns lounging about, as well as a number of Black Terns, sometimes flying by and occasionally resting on the beach. I also saw at least half-a-dozen Lesser Black-backed Gulls, plenty of Black Skimmers, and an assortment of shorebirds, including Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Western Sandpipers, Willets, and 2 Piping Plovers (one banded.)

Here are some of the images.

Sandwich Tern on Patrol

Sandwich Tern Hovers
Sandwich Tern begins its dive
Sandwich Tern Dive
Sandwich Tern Success!
Yum! Yellowtail!
Royal Tern has a big one!
Open wide, Junior!
Cut to the Chase!
I've got it! You can't have it
Follow that bird with the fish!

Food Fight

Black Tern in Flight
Black Terns Breeding and Molting

Black Tern Wings Wide

Common Tern

Ruddy Turnstone & Sanderling

Piping Plover - yellow and orange bands